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The Parish of Potsgrove in General

Potsgrove December 2007
Potsgrove December 2007

Landscape

The parish contains just under 1,500 acres, mostly grassland and lies between 400 and 500 feet above sea level. Most of the population used to live along Sheep Lane, the main road from Woburn to the A5 but during the 20th century many of the houses here were demolished. From the latter part of the 19th century Potsgrove was a "closed" village, that is to say all the land was owned by one individual, in this case the Duke of Bedford, and most of the inhabitants would have worked for him.

Name

Potsgrove is first recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 where it is called Potesgraue. The name either simply means "Pot(t)'s grove", Pott being an Anglo-Saxon name or "pool grove", Pott also meaning a pool, or even "potter's grove".

Z103-1 Potsgrove church about 1820
Potsgrove Church about 1820 [Z103/1]

Domesday

When the Domesday Book was compiled in the mid 1080s four people held land in the parish. The principal landowner was Gozelin (or Jocelyn) the Breton who held 7½ hides| from the King. Before the Conquest this land had been owned by four thegns|. The manor contained 3 villagers, 6 smallholders and 3 slaves. It had been worth £10 in 1066 but by the time Gozelin acquired it that value had been cut in half by the depredations of William I's armies. By 1086 the value had been cut still further to just a quarter of its pre-Conquest figure. The population indicates that this manor was centred on the village.

William the Chamberlain held a hide in Potsgrove from the King in 1086. The land had belonged to Morcar, a priest of Luton before the Conquest, who also owned land in neighbouring Battlesden. In 1066 the land had been worth 40 shillings but by the time it was acquired by William it had been devalued to 15 shillings, a figure it was still worth in 1086.

Herbert, a reeve of the King, held 3 virgates| of land in Potsgrove as well as half a hide in Woburn, it was noted that "he holds these lands in the King's Administration; they did not lie there before 1066 but since Ralph Taillebois was sheriff; he states that he had had them by the King's assent". Before the Conquest five freemen of King Edward the Confessor held the land which had been worth 20/- and by 1086 had been reduced to 6/-. The fact that this land was held with land in Woburn suggests that it might have been along Sheep Lane.

The final landowner was an unnamed groom of the King's who held half a hide. This had been held in 1066 by Oswy, a man of Earl Tostig (brother of King Harold II and killed fighting against him and with King Harald of Norway at Stamford Bridge in 1066). This land had been worth 10/- which had been cut in half since the Conquest.

Z102-57 Potsgrove Manor in 1813 by George Shepherd
Potsgrove Manor about 1813 by George Shepherd [Z102/57]

Manors

Gozelin's great grand-daughter Juliana married Geoffrey de Lucy and that family remained in possession until 1461 when Sir William left it to Elizabeth, wife of Roger Corbet and Walter Hopton, her brother, though he soon died leaving Elizabeth in sole possession. The Corbet family continued to hold the manor until Robert Corbet died without issue leaving the manor to his daughters Elizabeth Wallop and Anne Carey, Anne dying in 1602 and leaving her lands to Elizabeth. The manor is not mentioned after 1602 but it seems likely that the Duncombe family acquired it.

Blankfront Manor was originally part of Potsgrove Manor, being named after Henry and William Blankfront who held it from the mid 13th century until 1346. In 1392 John Chastellon and Margaret, his wife, had possession and granted it, in 1415 to John Goldington of Lidlington who then granted it to Woburn Abbey. After the Dissolution Edward VI granted the manor to Edward Fiennes, Lord Clynton & Saye and he granted it to William Saunders who died in possession in 1559, his son dying the next year and his sister Ellen inheriting it through whom it passed to the Duncombe family, the Duke of Bedford buying it in 1884. The manor house no longer exists but it is possible that earthworks near the foot of the hill in the field north of the road leading from Sheeplane to Potsgrove village show where it stood.

Potsgrove Manor earthworks December 2007
Blankfront Manor earthworks December 2007

The Manor of Lovells or Lovells Bury is first mentioned in 1278 when Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, gave it to John Lovel. The Abbot of St.Albans was overlord in 1465 and Sir Edward Duncombe was lord in 1638.

Modern Parish

The parish adjoins Battlesden| and, like it, has undergone a considerable depopulation. It is an ancient parish and remains a separate civil parish today but for ecclesiastical purposes it was united (as Pottesgrove) with Battlesden in 1928 and is today part of a ministry that also includes Woburn with Eversholt and Milton Bryan.

Population

Twelve men are noted as tenants of Gozelin le Breton's in 1086. To get a true idea of the population this figure should be multiplied by a factor of at least four to include all their dependents, suggesting a total population of around 50, not exceptionally low for the time.

Oddly, a population of 50 today would be an increase on current levels. Potsgrove has never been a populous parish but the settlement in Sheep Lane did boost it to over 250 in the mid 19th century. The declining population is shown by the following census figures:

1801 – 157; 1851 – 262; 1901 – 114; 1951 – 85; 2001 – 42